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  • feedwordpress 10:00:32 on 2017/06/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , Esther Perel, family, , , , , , Relationship dynamics,   

    What Does it Mean to be a Man? 

    “I had to quit my job because of a health issue, and now I’m home taking care of our kids. My wife has become the breadwinner. I know I should be happy that we could make it all work, but I feel like a loser.” – Zach, San Francisco, California

    Zach’s dilemma is the dichotomy of the modern male; emotionally evolved and willing able to care give, but pulled toward gender norms ingrained in us all.

    The construction of gender identity for men is more fragile than for women. In many cultures, one is born a woman — and one becomes a man. Chip Brown explores wide-ranging rites of passage into manhood from around the world in this National Geographic article.

    Often, masculinity is defined as the disavowal of the feminine inside of us. This is complicated for both women and men as we redefine modern gender roles.

    Zach, I have worked with many men in your position — lead dads shunned by moms on the playground. Men who feel inadequate because they’re not financially providing for their family (even though they are raising children). For some, pent up frustration even causes angry lash-outs at their children.

    While you cannot control what happened to your health, you can control the outcome. To paraphrase Viktor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning, you cannot always control the conditions you find yourself in, but you have the freedom to choose your reaction to them.

    You need to feel worthy, useful and socially connected. Seek out other men who are parenting. Look into the possibility of part-time work. Speak to your partner about how you’re feeling, so you can help one another find a balance. When you’re in the eye of the storm, it seems impossible to find a way out. But know that you are not the first to encounter the shifting sands of gender. As you wrestle with this new world, know that you are not alone.

    How do gender roles play out in your household? Let me know in the comments below.

    The post What Does it Mean to be a Man? appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • feedwordpress 17:00:39 on 2017/04/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Esther Perel, , Mind Body Green,   

    How To Introduce Role Play and Fantasy Into Your Relationship 

    Go Back to Basics

    First and foremost: role-play and fantasy do not have to include elaborate costumes, props and rehearsed scenarios. Forget shopping online for hours to find the perfect replica of an 18th-century Victorian maid’s outfit with elaborate silk ruffles and free yourself from the shackles of whips and chains (although, by all means, use them later if you want). The definition of fantasy is simply anything that intensifies the sexual experience. The weather, the time of day, the location or the pacing are some simple elements that may enhance the sexual experience between you and your partner. So let go of any expectations about elaborate role-play that may intimidate you or stymie you from beginning.

    Start from a Place of Reassurance

    Talking about sex can be tricky – especially when you’ve never done it before. Frequently, there is the fear that if we speak our desires aloud, our partner will shame us or they will feel like they have failed to satisfy us in the past. Insecurity and vulnerabilities swirl around our sexual selves. Start by reassuring your partner that you enjoy what you do have. Ask them if they’re comfortable talking about fantasy. Start slowly, ease into these conversations. Here are some suggestions to open the dialogue:

    “You know what, we’ve never talked about this and I’m really nervous…”

    “I’ve been doing this course, please don’t make fun of me – I would love to talk to you about it.”

    “Are you open to talking about what turns you on?”

    “I’m really curious about what you like…”

    Alternately, write a note. Or speak on the phone – which allows an intimate distance. Of course, the earlier you open up this dialogue in a relationship, the easier it is but nevertheless, start from today, because that is where you are now.

    Talk More and Try More…

    The door is now open to dialogue and for you to share your fantasies. Conversation about fantasy is about play, curiosity, transcending the limits of reality and moving beyond your usual boundaries. You can test out fantasies through talking (“Is there something you’ve always wanted to try?”) but you can also test through action. We act, we see and we wait for a response, then we try again. For instance if you start kissing your partner on the couch, but they are pulling you towards the bedroom, they are showing you what they are comfortable with – this can also raise an opportunity to express your desire to have sex in the living room. Through a combination of action and words, allow yourself to be playful and open. Get past shame by trying: knock on the door and say, “Hello, room service is here.” As children well know, you need a playmate to play. If you are shamed or rejected when you start to play a game, you retreat into yourself. So willingness is key. But so is the ability to try again if the door is not opened the first time.

    Bring in a Third… No, not that Kind of Third

    I often suggest to couples that they use a third item – a transitional object – such as a book, a movie or an overheard conversation to allow for fantasy and play to enter their sexual experiences. Reading to each other, for instance, can be a way to create desire.

    The book Behind Closed Doors offers fantasies from women and men’s point-of- view that can be read aloud. The lens of a movie or book allows for you to ask questions like: “Is that something you’d be interested in trying?” or “Does that turn you on?”

    Do it Yourself

    In the sanctuary of your erotic mind, you can be anything or anybody you want. So as well as cultivating mutual experiences, you can step into a different body or role inside your own mind – you are free to fantasize when you’re with your partner. You can imagine you are taller, younger, skinnier, more powerful, less powerful and on it goes. You can go beyond the limits of your own conscience, body type or abilities, particularly when you have a partner you feel safe with.

    How do you incorporate fantasy and how does that impact your relationships with yourself and your partner? 

    If you found this post helpful and crave a deeper dive into your erotic self, take a look at my new course on MindBodyGreen, The Essential Guide to Sparking Your Erotic Intelligence — over two hours of guidance to help you connect to your desires and improve sexual communication.

    The post How To Introduce Role Play and Fantasy Into Your Relationship appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • feedwordpress 16:24:53 on 2017/03/24 Permalink
    Tags: , confirmation bias, conflict, Esther Perel, Fight smarter, , , smart   

    Fight Smarter: Avoid the Most Common Argument Patterns 

    “Once in awhile I am late and my boyfriend takes it so personally. I can understand why he gets upset but he blows it way out of proportion and it triggers our biggest fights. How can I convince my man that it’s not about him?” – Paul, Fort Collins, Colorado

    This month we have been delving into the messy, uncomfortable and unavoidable issue of conflict – from the phenomena of kitchen sinking to moving beyond bickering.

    No relationship is free of conflict.

    In the same way that we are comprised of swirling atoms – positive and negative charges that attract and repel – two people are forces orbiting each other, moving towards and away, trying to find a way to coexist and take shape in the world.

    There are two parts to Paul’s question.

    The first is the fraught nature of his boyfriend’s response to his lateness. The second is that Paul wants to “convince” his partner not to feel the way he does.

    Unfortunately, we cannot decide for another that their reaction is out of proportion. When it comes to arguments, it is dangerous to think of oneself as the barometer of sanity or the arbiter of overreactions (i.e. “I think you’re taking this way too personally”). Let go of any assumptions you have about how people should or must react to you. It never bodes well.

    Now to the meat of Paul’s question…

    There are patterns in arguments that are well recognized that I see over and over again. Here are three patterns Paul and his partner, and all of us, can examine as we think about how to fight better.

    Check your Bias

    Damian, Paul’s boyfriend, is convinced that Paul is late on purpose. I can hear the tenor of this argument: “You know how much it upsets me,” he may say to Paul. “Clearly, you behave this way because you don’t respect me.”

    This assumption is known as confirmation bias where we pick up evidence along the way to confirm what we think is true, and disregard any evidence that will challenge our conclusion, and make us reconsider our worldview. It doesn’t matter how many times Paul has been early or taken special care to be on time, the instances where he is late are magnified.

    So why do we persist in thinking other people don’t care about us when they are often trying to convince us that they do?

    Because we organize our reality around these confirmation biases – they create order for us, structure among the chaos.

    Paul, don’t justify, don’t explain, don’t make excuses, give Damian space to be pissed off. Acknowledge his frustration. Simply say: “I know how much you hate this” and “I understand completely that you would feel this way when I’m late”. Leave the other person with the meaning that they have invested in the situation, with the space to feel the way they do and stay connected to them amidst the conflict.

    And for Damian (and all of us) think of the times when Paul has done the right thing. See my previous post about keeping a log for an idea on how to emphasize the positive.

    Cut Out the Character Assassination

    When I do something wrong (like arriving late) it’s typically circumstantial. But if you fail me, I attribute it to your character.

    Damian is convinced that Paul’s lateness is a character flaw; evidence of how disrespectful, uncaring, disorganized and distracted he is. Paul, no doubt, has an entirely different view of his behavior based on the day — for instance, “the subway was stalled” or “I really had to finish this report before leaving the office”.

    We call this fundamental attribution error where we attribute our mistakes to the context but the ones of our partners are rooted in their faulty personality.

    Another way to phrase this is: I am perfect and you are not.

    I suggest a good dose of humor when this pattern appears in your relationship.

    Avoid Always & Never

    Conflict often creates a contraction between couples, a rigidity, leaving little room for flexibility or nuance. “You’re always late,” says Damian. “You never acknowledge what I do for you,” Paul will fire back.  

    These always and never statements become factual – as if what we have asserted is empirically verified data.

    One important thing to understand about couple’s communication is that a lot of what is presented as fact is actually an intensification of someone’s experience.

    When you say “never!” or “always” to someone, the first thing they will do is disagree, citing a contrary example from the past.

    Don’t shift your feelings into pseudo-factual talk. The best thing you can do in an always/never situation is say, “It feels like you do this all the time. Probably you don’t but in this moment, I feel like it’s so.”

    For more information on relationship conflicts, read my blogs on kitchen-sinking fights and breaking the bickering cycle. Tell me about the patterns you recognize from your own behavior and from your relationship.

    The post Fight Smarter: Avoid the Most Common Argument Patterns appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • feedwordpress 16:09:06 on 2017/02/17 Permalink
    Tags: , curiosity test, , , , , Esther Perel, ,   

    Video: How to Address Uncertainty in Dating 

    “How can I be certain I am making the right choice when I start dating someone I meet online?” – Joy

    I’m sorry to disappoint you, Joy, but the certainty you’re looking for is hardly possible in the beginning. In fact, all that uncertainty is part of the excitement. The start of relationships are ripe with the delicious elements of curiosity, the unknown, the mystery of meeting someone new, and the vulnerability of it all.

    In our commodified society, a date is no longer an open-ended exploration, but an intake interview to see if a person matches your pre-determined check list.

    We are overwhelmed by the paradox of choice, and want so badly to find happiness. We are drowning in cognitive overload, floundering in the uncertainty and self-doubt that comes with limitless choice.

    The only way you will become certain about a potential mate is simply by spending time with that person. Discovering, communicating, asking questions, sharing experiences and getting to know them. And if you really want to get to know somebody, challenges, crisis, and loss will give you a view like no other.

    Try keeping yourself open to a gradual unfolding of the many layers of a person. Allow yourself to be surprised. You may discover something you didn’t even know you were looking for.

    Here a couple ways to gauge your early connection:

    The curiosity test

    The level of curiosity you have about a person is a great indicator of your interest. If you are captivated and want to learn more, that’s a great start. If you have zero curiosity, then you’re probably not in the right place.

    How you feel in the presence of this person

    Do you feel heard and understood? Do you feel expanded? Are you present? Do you feel beautiful?

    If you allow yourself that uncertainty and openness, rather than forcing yourself to know right away, it will ease a lot of the anxiety around choosing the right person.

    How do you feel when you first meet someone new?

    The post Video: How to Address Uncertainty in Dating appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • feedwordpress 15:33:07 on 2017/02/10 Permalink
    Tags: , Confidence, , , , Esther Perel, Speaking with confidence, , YouTube   

    Video: How to Speak with Confidence 

    “How do you get the confidence to go up to someone in real life?” – Jaime 

    In today’s video, I answer this question from Jamie in Florida. 

    The bottom line is that we all want to create meaningful connections with others. Human connection and being seen by another person is a fundamental human experience.

    Most of us also have a deep rooted fear of rejection.

    Personally, I experienced an insecurity when I felt that my accent was blocking me from being able to connect with people in real life. Until I understood from a teacher that this is something I could use and say “I don’t know what you are saying” or they would ask me “Where are you from?” In fact, I didn’t have to say anything because they were asking me all the questions. You are a mystery as much as they are a mystery to you.
     

    When dating and seeking connections from others, we can hide behind screens and profiles. Step outside of your comfort zone, and try to connect with someone in real life.

    I want to hear from you, how are you connecting with people in real life

    The post Video: How to Speak with Confidence appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • feedwordpress 14:00:45 on 2016/12/23 Permalink
    Tags: , Blues, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown Christmas, Depression, Esther Perel, , Holiday Blues, Loss, Sadness   

    How to Ease the Holiday Blues 

    “I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.” – Charlie Brown in Charlie Brown Christmas

    Charlie Brown immortalized the uncanny dissonance of the holiday blues in this classic Christmas tale. I first heard about the holiday blues when I was working at a psychiatric hospital in Cambridge and my colleague said to me in September: “These beds will all be full by the beginning of December”. I thought it was strange that at a time centered around happiness, fellowship, harmony and family, people find themselves lonely, sad, depressed — even suicidal. Clearly, the holidays are laden with expectations – expectations that have been built upon a foundation of years of nostalgia or, alternately, disappointment.

    While some of us look forward to the holidays, others dread the impending stress that comes from overdrinking, overeating and over consuming. Many of us remember those who are no longer with us — family members who have passed, marriages that ended, and relationships that have been severed. Holidays propel us back into old family conflicts which faithfully resurface each year, which can deepen our sadness and unease.

    Here are some ways you can lighten your expectations and ease the holiday blues. They are a holiday offering for you. Pick and chose as you like, rather than another dreaded list of to-do’s that you must get done by the year’s end.

    Reassess your priorities

    As the year closes, we feel pulled by an array of demands: attending office parties, cooking elaborate meals, traveling and spending beyond our means. What would actually bring you the most pleasure this holiday? Make a list of your holiday “shoulds”. Get inspired by Ellen Burstyn’s “should-less” days. See if you can cross off at least two or three items from your list.

    Then, make a new list – of things that will bring you meaning and pleasure. How can these two lists be combined? For instance, if you want to reconnect with old friends but you are planning to cook a complicated meal to impress them, what if everyone brought a dish, instead? Collaborate with family and friends by letting them know how you feel about the holidays – you may be surprised to find they feel the same way – and together, find creative ways to ease holiday anxiety.

    Give to those who need it most

    The old adage is true: there is nothing that makes you feel less alone and less unworthy than to help others. For years, when my children were young, we would volunteer in a soup kitchen on Christmas day. The holidays offer so many opportunities to give to the community. And you will find that your act of altruism has the benefit of making you feel better, while also creating a sense of meaning that cuts through the superficialities of the holiday season. Here’s a list of possibilities for helping others in New York, or to find opportunities in your area, a quick internet search should lead you in the right direction.

    Surround yourself with your family of choice

    Many of us do not spend the holidays with those that we love the most. What I seek in the holidays is gathering, conviviality and warmth – a beating back against the cold through the fellowship of others. Create a place where you can be with those who accept you, free from judgment and awkward political conversations. If you feel isolated, far from your family, have a gathering of “the exiled and orphans.” This kind of fellowship brings great solace during the holidays.

    Find some time for spiritual introspection

    When I lived in Jerusalem, despite being Jewish, every year I would pick a different church to attend midnight mass. Regardless of your religion, being in a room where songs are sung, candles are lit and humans gather together can be uplifting, helping you to shift your focus from doing to simply being.

    How are you handling the holidays this season? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 

    The post How to Ease the Holiday Blues appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • feedwordpress 18:00:36 on 2016/12/16 Permalink
    Tags: art of flirting, , chen lizra, , dance, dancer, , Esther Perel, flirt, , power of seduction, ,   

    The Power Of Seduction 

    “Seduction is really about your untapped power that you are not using that you want to release. Seduction is about charm, connection, vulnerability, pride, self-confident and appeal.”  — Chen Lizra, Social Entrepreneur, Somatic Life Coach, Author of My Seductive Cuba, and dancer.

    On a recent trip to Miami, a friend took me to a salsa club in Little Havana. I love to watch people dance. Especially salsa, rumba and tango. These luminous forms of dance are based on seduction. Watching couples twirl around the dance floor reminded me of a TED Talk by Chen Lizra titled “The power of seduction in our everyday lives.” Chen learned the art of seduction through her travels and studies with professional Cuban salsa dancers. She believes that seduction is an essential life skill that can be taught and made one’s own.

    Watch the video and let us know in the comments what you think about the power of seduction.

    Additional resources on the topic:

    The post The Power Of Seduction appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
  • feedwordpress 20:00:07 on 2016/11/18 Permalink
    Tags: , Cross Cultural, , cutural, Differences, Esther Perel, ethnic tension, , religion,   

    How To Address Cross Cultural Differences 

    “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” – Ethics of the Father, Hillel

    Whomever you voted for, most likely, you were surprised by the results.

    This is a good moment to take stock. What does this election mean about me, and how do I connect to others?

    Working with broken relationships between people who are unable to relate to one another is central to my work as a couples therapist. I help them listen, acknowledge their respective experiences, and communicate across divides.

    We are experiencing a severe polarization. New conversations around the world are in dire need, and creating a safe space to dialogue is more important than ever.

    When faced with otherness, we can respond one of two ways: with fear or with curiosity. The “other” may refer to your partner, sibling, neighbor, or fellow citizen. Depending on how threatened you feel, your mind and body will either contract or expand.

    Many of you know me through my work on sexuality. What you may not know, is that before writing Mating in Captivity, the first 24 years of my career I was a cross-cultural psychologist, primarily focusing on race relationship, ethnic tensions, cultural and religious intermarriage, immigration and acculturation.

    For decades, I have worked with groups and couples to bridge divisiveness and conflict. In Montreal, I worked with teachers and students in public schools on the tensions between the Haitian students and the Quebecois. In Belgium, I led workshops on Jewish identity which brought together a spectrum of Jews from the ultra-Orthodox community and the secular community. In the US, I worked for a decade with rabbis, educators, donors and families helping the Jewish community to open it’s doors to interfaith couples.

    While we can not be knowledgeable about all cultures, we can learn how to approach those that are unfamiliar to us and understand their essential features. How can we all develop a more cultural way of thinking and increase our understanding of the multifaceted meanings of race, culture and religion?

    I think we can all start by asking ourselves these four questions:

    1.  What are the messages you received at home about “the other”? Were you encouraged to get to know them? Or were you taught to distrust or ignore them?
    2. Did you grow up in a neighborhood that was primarily racially, ethnically, economically, religiously homogenous? Or did you grow up in a mixed neighborhood, as you see it?
    3. Today, are you more likely to emphasize how others are similar to you, or how you may be different?
    4. What has been your experience when you’re in the minority, vs. when you’re in the majority?

    How do these questions make you feel? Are the answers what you expected? I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments. I ask you to be mindful of the varied views within our community, and I hope this is a productive and respectful space for us all.

    The post How To Address Cross Cultural Differences appeared first on Esther Perel.

     
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